Monday, 27 January 2014

Medicinal Value of Bitter Leaf


The herb known as the bitter leaf is a shrub or small tree that can reach twenty three feet in height when fully grown. Bitter leaf has a gray or brown colored bark; the bark has a rough texture and is flaked. The branches of the shrub are brittle and break off easily. The green leaves are oblong to lance like in shape, they are veined, and bear pale soft hairs on the underside. Bitter leaf bears small white flowers, these flowers bloom in clusters during the spring. The plant bears small fruits, which have slightly hairy small nuts inside.

PARTS USED

Pith, leaf, root.

USES

Bitter leaf is eaten as a vegetable in many areas of East Africa, it is known as mujonso in Tanzania. Soups and stews are made from the leafy greens of the plant in many countries of east Africa, where the herb is prepared in the same way the spinach is used in the west. An appetizer is made from the “chew sticks" of the plant - the root and the twigs. The bitter leaf is believed to help restore the stamina when consumed in the form of a tonic food called ndole.
Even animals use the plant to cure themselves and chimpanzees inhabiting the Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania, have been observed chewing the pith of the bitter leaf possibly due to its ability to ward off parasites and to get at other medicinal properties in the plant. Intestinal parasitic infestations are treated by African people using the bitter leaf. Traditionally, native healers may have come to know of the beneficial properties of this plant by studying the behavior of sick animals in the wild - many animals eat this plant when they become sick. Some of the principal chemical constituents found in the bitter leaf herb are a class of compounds called steroid glycosides - type vernonioside B1 - these chemical substances possess a potent anti-parasitic, anti-tumor, and bactericidal effects. The bitter leaf is mainly employed as an agent in treating schistosomiasis, which is a disease caused by parasitic worms. At the same time, the bitter leaf also helps bring relief from related problems in the body such as diarrhea and general physical malaise. Remedies made from the bitter leaf are used in treating twenty five common ailments in sub-Saharan Africa, these include common problems such as fever, and different kinds of intestinal complaints, as well as parasite induced diseases like malaria and other vector borne diseases.

HABITAT AND CULTIVATION

The bitter leaf herb is an indigenous African species; it grows in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The east African country of Tanzania is traditionally linked to this plant. The herb is found growing wild along the edges of agricultural fields

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